Interplay Between Structural Forces and Individual Agency

Published: 2021-06-23
705 words
3 pages
6 min to read
University of California, Santa Barbara
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There are two basic types of perspectives. One is the macro view which looks at the concept of agency; it is the individual's ability to make their choices in the society. Choices that aren't guided by anything but their desires need and wish fulfillment (free will). On the other side is the macro perspective, this concentrates on how the structures and social forces that exist outside the individual have an influence on the decisions they make. The structures have a much bigger impact on the individual that the individual can on the structures of the society (Paul Farmer, 2001).

Structural violence is a form of dysfunction where social structures prevent a particular group of people from having access to basic human rights. Scores of people in Haiti lack basic needs. Haiti is highly struck by modern epidemic diseases like AIDS and tuberculosis. The country gained independent from the French colonies and had undergone decades of political instability.

The article "left behind" reflects on the life of the gangs in Guatemala. These children lacked support and love while they were suffering trauma from the loss of their families; thus they ended on the street as monsters. The missionaries are spreading god's sake to heal these wounds. Gang membership is rarely a personal choice. It's often a form of retaliating from the harsh environment and protection from other gangs. On the other side compared to their sponsors who live well-privileged lives and lack uncertainties. According to Peter Benson, and Edward F Ficher (2016), opines that children who have been sponsored are way better and embrace an education which keeps them off the gangs and leads a different life. Although they get an education, they more often face the challenges while they of bouncing back to their gang life since the societal influence is stronger.

Broccolis are a non-traditional crop thus not politely accepted by the locals in Tecpan, Guatemala, but for Pablo and Susan, both are involved in a fundamentally human process of desiring. To Pablo, he is after economic profit-seeking thus he is driven by more of need rather than desire. For Susan, she consumes broccoli for medical wellness. These requirements aren't universally shared, and it's more of a modern lifestyle (Peter Benson, & Edward F Ficher, 2016). To locals, broccoli is rarely consumed thus those who grow them go against the cultural structure which comes with its uncertainties and dangers, the local rumor around that some of the exporters are drug traffickers.

Considering the case of structural violence, most of the wealth that was produced by the Haitians during the slavery period was shipped to the wealthy in France who enjoyed immense luxuries from their sweat, way after the independent the country could not up due to political instabilities. While the dictatorships may be gone, the transnational political and economic structures that maintained them are still in place and still inflicting their harm (Paul Farmer, 2001). Which explains the reason why the patient couldn't get medical help for her breast cancer despite visiting 14 clinics thus she resulted to the disease as "a God sickness."

Neoliberalism embraced by the broccoli farmers like Pablo in Guatemala is a form of evading the statistics of poverty in the region. Despite the fact that Pablo practicing his free will to choose his standards of living that too comes with a price, the fact that having a truck determines how much money you make not the hard work you put in. The exporters also exploit the locals since they have access to the market, it stated that they waste 15% of the produce since they don't add up to their definition of "quality." This is against their cultural beliefs of wasting food, and often the farmers sacrifice a loss over profit. In all the three cases despite the individual desires to follow their free will, certain social structures override their wishes. Both come with their dangers and uncertainties.


ONeill, Kevin Lewis. Cultural Anthropology: Left Behind: Security, Salvation, and The Subject Of Prevention University Of Toronto.

Paul Farmer (2001). An Anthropology of Structural Violence.

Peter Benson, & Edward F Ficher (2016). Broccoli and Desire. Department of Anthropology, Vanderbilt University. & Department of Anthropology, Washington University (2016) Health Lifestyle Theory and the Convergence of Agency and Structure. Journals.Sagepub.Com.

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